Bridging the Gap between Israeli and US Offices


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Israel is strong in developing new technologies, and needs to rely on field offices to bring these innovations to market. This slide deck was presented to a group of executives at the Israel Export Institute to discuss how to bridge the culture and communications gap between Israeli and US offices to ensure fruitful, cooperative work. Presented by an American-Israeli executive at an Israeli company, who has worked both in the USA and Israel.

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Bridging the Gap between Israeli and US Offices

  1. 1. View from the American Side Experiences and Challenges of an American Manager in an Israeli Company Rebecca Steinberg Herson Commtouch Software
  2. 2. Professional Background <ul><li>Over a decade in technology & NGO marketing in Israel and the USA </li></ul><ul><li>Currently VP Marketing at Commtouch (NASDAQ: CTCH) </li></ul><ul><li>Previously VP Marketing at Redmatch </li></ul><ul><li>Head of Marketing at Whale (to be acquired by Microsoft) </li></ul><ul><li>Marcom at Orckit (NASDAQ: ORCT) </li></ul>
  3. 3. Human Resource Issues <ul><li>Prefer Structure </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Organization Chart </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clear definition of who reports to whom </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Where does my responsibility end & someone else’s begin? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Typically amorphous </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Big Head” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Flat organizations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lots of “dotted lines” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Can-do” attitude </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Human Resource Issues – cont. <ul><li>Clear distinction between work & family time </li></ul><ul><li>Accustomed to working 8-hour days, with 1 hour for lunch (9am-5pm) </li></ul><ul><li>Used to social distance </li></ul><ul><li>Insurance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This is a must </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Live, breathe & eat career </li></ul><ul><li>Accustomed to 9 - 9.5+ hour days (this is the minimum) </li></ul><ul><li>Used to almost zero social distance </li></ul><ul><li>Accustomed to socialized health care </li></ul>
  5. 5. Logistics <ul><li>Mon-Fri Work Week </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2-day backlog of emails on Monday morning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2 business days of no one to talk to starting Thursday </li></ul></ul><ul><li>7-10 hour time difference – means early mornings </li></ul><ul><li>Used to short business trips </li></ul><ul><li>Sun-Thurs work week </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Urgent phone calls interrupt family time on Fridays </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Quiet Sundays & Mondays </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sh*t hits the fan Monday 4 pm </li></ul></ul><ul><li>7-10 hour time difference – means late nights </li></ul><ul><li>Used to looooong business trips </li></ul>
  6. 6. Logistics <ul><li>Letter paper (“Quarto”) </li></ul><ul><li>Illustrator & Photoshop </li></ul><ul><li>Designers use Mac </li></ul><ul><li>Left-to-Right </li></ul><ul><li>A4 paper </li></ul><ul><li>Freehand </li></ul><ul><li>Designers use PC </li></ul><ul><li>Right-to-Left (!) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Logistics <ul><li>Costs = higher </li></ul><ul><li>Market = enormous, spread out, fragmented </li></ul><ul><li>Accustomed to lower costs </li></ul><ul><li>Used to Israeli/European markets (these markets work completely differently) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Management Issues <ul><li>Strong Management Culture </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gurus include: Jack Welch, Peter Drucker, Michael Dell, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>B-schools globally use Harvard case studies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Emergent Management Culture </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most Israeli successes have been due to innovation or timing or both, not great management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tendency to allow inexperienced managers to “learn on the job” (think 20-year-olds running major army units) </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Management Issues <ul><li>Product Management Centered </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Silicon Valley: very customer-needs oriented </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sales & marketing feel they have valid input into the product direction </li></ul></ul><ul><li>R&D Centered </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ideas are often technology driven </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Developed nearly to launch phase, before ever speaking with a customer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pre-launch customer calls are handled by technical people, not marketing </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. “ The Wrapping” <ul><li>Polite </li></ul><ul><li>Criticism is “constructive” </li></ul><ul><li>Appearance is everything </li></ul><ul><li>Aggressive </li></ul><ul><li>Criticism is direct </li></ul><ul><li>Genuineness is prized over appearance </li></ul>
  11. 11. “ The Wrapping” – cont. Dear Moshe, The report you prepared looks great. If it’s not too much trouble, it would be helpful if you could expand the section on manufacturing a bit. Let’s talk today about how to move forward. We’ll need the final version to send out to the customer by Friday. Thanks, Rebecca Need more on manufacturing by Friday.
  12. 12. “ The Wrapping” – cont. Dear Yossi, This customer really needs the install done by June 15. Please let me know how you are progressing with this! Thanks, Rebecca What she meant: Customer will throw us out if installation is not completed by June 15. Get your act together or we will lose this account .
  13. 13. Bridging the Gap <ul><li>Build personal relationships </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Visit regularly (2-3 times a quarter) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visit customers, participate in sales calls </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bring US employees to Israel </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The cost is worth it </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Share Israeli warmth </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Invite people to your home (don’t necessarily expect this favor returned when you are in the USA :) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tour with them in Israel </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Use all technology at your disposal </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Email, IM, Skype, video conferencing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technology does not replace actual human contact </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Bridging the Gap – cont. <ul><li>Expect to work unusual hours, and be available equally to your whole team, regardless of their location </li></ul><ul><li>Be clear about your expectations when you hire people; if you are expecting them to work off-hours, be up-front about it </li></ul><ul><li>Make English the official language of written correspondence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Speak only English when you are in the US office or at US customers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Teach US employees some basic Hebrew (if they are interested), or run cultural understanding workshops </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make sure your Israeli team can read, speak and understand English fluently </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Learn to read carefully between the lines; an exclamation point is serious. A customer complaint is super -serious. </li></ul><ul><li>Relocate some key Israeli personnel to the USA </li></ul>
  15. 15. THANK YOU!! [email_address]